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Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company

'Hissy Fit', 'Chapters' and other works

by Elizabeth McPherson

January 11, 2007 -- Joyce Theatre, New York City

In the first moments of “Hissy Fit,” choreographed by Dwight Rhoden to the music of J. S. Bach, I was struck by the beauty of the Complexions dancers as they lined up horizontally across the stage in the stark lighting. The intensity quickly built, with individual dancers and groups of dancers erupting into “hissy fits” and then exiting the stage. The frenetic energy and dense complexity of the steps was exhausting and awe-inspiring to this viewer:  the Complexions dancers have stamina by the bucket loads along with fantastic facility. Rhoden pushes the extremes of the movements in both ballet and modern styles, piecing the steps together like a collage—the dancers switching in an instant from a first arabesque to intense torso undulations. He uses the horizontal line of dancers seen at the beginning as a repeating choreographic motif, providing some of the most memorable moments in the dance. Also memorable was the eating the foot motif, although perplexing as to meaning.

“Barely Silent,” was choreographed by Jodie Gates, with music by Alan Terricciano, performed live by Terricciano and Michael Kevin Jones. The fluidity and lyricism in this dance was a welcome contrast to the intensity of “Hissy Fit.” The dancers’ bodies were like taffy. The women wore pointe shoes, using them in such a way that the shoes went almost unnoticed, so supple was the use of their feet. The combination of ballet and modern styles in this dance is less juxtaposition than a thorough melding.

“Loose Change,” choreography by Taye Diggs with music by David Ryan Harris, was danced by Desmond Richardson. Unlike the previous dances on the program, this dance introduced a sentimental thread to the evening. Vocal music contributed to this effect. Richardson’s expert dancing embodied the emotions of longing and desire.

Juan Rodriguez and Yusha Marie Sorzano performed “This Heart,” choreographed by Matthew Prescott to music by Sinead O’Connor. This duet has a dreamy quality to it—light and airy, dwelling in the magical aspect of romantic love. The dancers moved well together, swirling and flying through fancies of the heart.

“B. Sessions” (excerpt) is a dance for eight—four dancers and four red chairs. Rhoden’s choreography to Beethoven’s music, performed by Henry Wong Doe, is meant to be an exercise in theme and variation. I particularly enjoyed the unison sections. Rhoden’s choreography is a feast for the eyes with enormous quantities of steps, so that the unison is a welcome relief, showing off the beauty of the intricate and unique choreography. Incredibly prolific, Rhoden’s mind must be filled with dancers all the time.

The final dance, “Chapters,” a musical theatre work written and choreographed by Rhoden to songs performed by Marvin Gaye, was shown in excerpts for this performance. Each of the 15 characters was carefully described in the program as to job held, personal traits, and relationships to other dancers. The first thought that went through my mind was that often quoted statement of Balanchine’s that there are no mothers-in-law in ballet. In other words, some relationships, and I would add personal histories, are too complex to delineate through movement alone. I could only match up a couple of the dancers with their character profiles in the program. That said, the energy and excitement of the choreography could probably be attributed in part to the careful delineation of the characters in each dancer’s mind. The movement phrases performed with different styles and personalities filled the stage, giving an impression of city life and the cacophony of personalities that make up city life.

Although I would have absorbed each dance more fully had there been fewer of them, I found this tour de force riveting. It showcased diverse choreographic styles danced by phenomenal dancers.

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